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Transmissions: Rollback

by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith  

The Trump administration has once again attempted to ban transgender people from serving in the United States military. This time, according to Slate, the ban was secretly drafted by Vice President Mike Pence, with assistance from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation.

Of course, this new policy relies heavily on claims that transgender people will adversely affect "unit cohesion" - a concept that has sprung up any time the military has moved away from being white, male, and straight. Issues of "privacy" came up as well, and used in the same way as always.

"Allowing transgender persons who have not undergone a full sex reassignment (sic), and thus retain at least some of the anatomy of their biological sex, to use the facilities of their identified gender would invade the expectations of privacy that the strict male-female demarcation in berthing, bathroom, and shower facilities is meant to serve," read part of the report leading up to the new ban.

The latter was woven into statements made by Ben Carson, the current secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. When he was not busy ordering up a $31,000 dining set for his office - and blaming its purchase on his wife - he was claiming that transgender people should not be allowed in homeless shelters because, "there are some women who said they were not comfortable with the idea of being in a shelter, being in a shower, and somebody who had a very different anatomy."

Just a day or two before Carson's statements, Betsy DeVos, Education Department secretary, also chimed in on transgender people, noting that the department will no longer look into complaints from transgender students who end up denied access to sex segregated facilities.

All of these developments within one week of each other can hardly be accidental, and I suspect each of these can be traced directly back to Pence and people like Anderson and Perkins pushing the usual bathroom claptrap that has failed over and over again at the state level, and threw North Carolina into chaos over the passage of its own anti-LGBT bill, HB 2, that barred trans people from public restrooms that matched their gender identity.

This is what is happening while Trump spends his time on the golf course, or holed upstairs at the White House glued to "Fox and Friends," tweeting madly. Pence and his far-right cronies are pushing a hard-right, anti-LGBTQ agenda that is currently focused squarely on trans rights.

All this while there's been no evidence that transgender people using facilities appropriate to their gender identity or expression causes any real issues. The whole argument that this will lead to additional sexual assaults simply doesn't bear out. Never mind that barring transgender people from facilities appropriate to their gender presentation will not protect transgender people themselves.

As a transgender activist, it can be so damned tiring to have to continue to deal with these issues. We've had to look at these sorts of attacks on transgender people for years, and have to parrot the same facts over and over. The same junk science and falsehoods simply refuse to perish, and we're left having to start at square one each time.

I simply find myself without any fresh way to say that transgender people are not the villain the right wishes to paint us as. They want people to believe a caricature, rather than any reality.

To those who would seek to hold transgender people down, we're all crazed, sex-obsessed men in dresses, whose five o'clock shadow peeks through our foundation. Rather than facing years of gender dysphoria, we simply opted to wear women's attire on a lark, seeking to gain admittance to restrooms and changing stalls to victimize women and young girls. It's so frustrating to have to counter these ridiculous notions over and over again.

Meanwhile, a growing number of transgender people are opting out of using any facilities at all. Quite simply none are safe for transgender people of any stripe as bigots and laws prevent us from one or the other. Our privacy and safety is never considered in these arguments over preserving the privacy and safety of users of the very facilities we're being prevented from using.

What's more, we stand to see a lot more steps against transgender people, wiping out the gains of the Obama years and long before. It would seem clear to me that the end goal is to drive transgender people out of society overall, completely disenfranchising us and eventually forcing us into hiding and fear. I wish I could claim to be using hyperbole here: it would seem the only possible endgame to all these anti-transgender moves, and the long-stated goal of organizations like the FRC and the Heritage Foundation.

All that said, I expect that this new ban of transgender people in the military will fall as the previous one did, and nothing that DeVos says will halt the fact that Title IX protections have served transgender students in several cases to date. I also suspect that shelters under Carson will end up open to transgender people no matter what he chooses to mumble.

Yet it will not happen without everyone pitching in.

Those of us who are trans have to keep at the front lines. We have to keep speaking out, keep being visible, and keep pushing for change at all levels.

That said, those of us who have been fighting this day after day are weary. We need our allies to speak out. We need everyone to stand with us.

If you say you support transgender people, now is the time to act.

Gwen Smith would much rather write about cutesy fun things. You can find her at www.gwensmith.com.

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